Summer is the prime season for travel. Airlines ready themselves for the throng of travelers trying to check in and get to their gates on time. Unfortunately for us travelers, baggage restrictions and fees are putting a heavy damper on our vacation plans, so here is a guide to help you manage and avoid those pesky airline baggage fees.
1. Choose an airline that offers free checked luggage.
If you don’t want to pay baggage fees, you should fly with Southwest or JetBlue. The first checked bag with either of these carriers is free. Other carriers offer a free checked bag with only international flights. Choose an airline that works best for you. If you have more than one bag to check, choose an airline that spreads fees evenly between bags, as opposed to dumping a huge amount of fees on the second or third bags. Many budget carriers will charge higher baggage fees in lieu of reduced airfares.
2. Know the baggage fees.
It’s not particularly surprising that most travelers show up to the airport without knowing how much a checked bag will cost. That’s partly because there is no standard rule for baggage fees across all airlines. Make sure you spend that extra bit of time researching your airline’s baggage fees. You’ll have to do a little digging as most carriers don’t present that information on the home pages of their sites.
3. Understand carry-on limits.
In the heyday of air travel, when checked baggage was free, people used overhead compartments to store a purse, backpack, or small bag. Now, many travelers are shoving their primary travel bags into those spaces. It’s not exactly uncommon to see people almost come to blows over that overhead space. Like baggage fees, there is no standard size for carry-ons. Check your airline’s website for appropriate size limits to avoid being forced to check your carry-on at the gate.
4. Consider one-bag travel.
No airlines charge for a carry-on (at least, not yet). If you can limit what you pack down to one carry-on and one personal item, you can completely avoid baggage fees. You also won’t have to waste time checking your bag and picking it up from the carousel, and you won’t have to worry about your airline losing your bag. It’s also a lot easier to get through the airport and mass transit when you don’t have to lug a heavy suitcase around.
5. …but don’t overpack.
Even with one bag, you’ll probably be tempted to over pack, to fill that carry-on until the seams are about to burst. More airlines are imposing weight limits for carry-on bags. Not following those limits could lead to some hefty fees, or you may be forced to check your carry-on.
Buy a bag that won’t let you over pack, a bag that allows enough space for your essentials without going overboard. If you’re still having trouble, follow the old rule of thumb: lay out all that you plan to pack and leave half of it at home.
Over packing goes for checked bags as well. Bags that are overweight or oversized are subject to fees that might cost you more than your plane ticket. On United, for example, an overweight bag on an international flight will cost you $400 each way.
6. Pay for fees online.
If you’re already planning on checking your bags, make the arrangements before you reach the airport. Pay your fees through your airline’s website. You’ll save time by avoiding those long lines.
7. Ship your bags via mail.
Shipping a heavy package seems just as expensive as checking your bag, but this handy chart proves otherwise. Shipping your suitcase may actually be cheaper than paying the baggage fees, especially if you want to pack more than the airlines allow. However, this method takes a little planning and forethought. If your packages need to be stored at your hotel before your arrival, you will be charged a fee.
8. Be prepared for those fees.
Even with your best efforts, you’ll still be charged with baggage fees. Make sure you’ve set aside some money in your travel budget to take care of these fees. Accept it. You’re not alone when it comes to paying those fees. Whining or complaining will only keep you down. Don’t let those baggage fees ruin the entirety of your trip, and above all else; don't forget to plan ahead and reserve your airport parking online with Airport Parking Connection!